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Every picture tells a story

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The phrase “every picture tells a story” has been around since the 19th century but is just as true now as it was then. Even though millions of photos are taken every single day, and they each have a purpose. Some are more significant than others, for sure. But unless your photograph has a reason to exist, why bother taking it in the first place?

In this article we give you five top tips about how to use your photos to tell a story.


Decide on the story you want to tell

How do photos tell a story? The key to effective storytelling in a photograph is that the image will fire the imagination of the person viewing it. It will trigger an understanding of the circumstances of the photo, and also make them wonder what will happen next.

Developing the skills to tell a story in your photos will take time, but there is one essential ingredient you need to be aware of. What are you passionate about in life? Even if you know all the theory about how to use your photos to tell a story, you are still unlikely to get the results you want unless you are passionate about the story you are telling. 

So before you start thinking about storytelling through photographs, decide what are the stories that you would love to tell because they are something that you feel strongly about and have a passion for.


Plan the locations and subjects you want to photograph

Once you have decided the kind of story you want to tell, a bit of advance planning can go a long way towards achieving your goal. Don’t worry if this takes time : it’s better to put the effort in beforehand to give your photography every chance of success.

You need to think about what kind of shots you want to take, and what/who will feature in them. It can help to make a list of these to remind you at the time. You may not be able to get them all, and/or you may add in other spontaneous shots that you hadn’t considered. Both of these scenarios are fine, but there’s a lot of truth in the saying “Fail to Plan = Plan to Fail”.

Another aspect of planning is that you can hopefully get the chance to become familiar with the location in which you are going to take your shots. This can be really helpful in terms of gaining an understanding of the best places to shoot, the different kinds of lighting available and even the typical weather patterns of the area.



Include as much detail as possible

The secret of success in how to use your photos to tell a story lies in capturing the small detail. You need to consider every aspect of the image, as well as the main subject of it. For example, if the photo was to tell the story of your day right now, what would it include? 

Firstly, there would be you. What expression would be on your face? What would your body language reveal? What are you wearing, and do you look well put together or rather dishevelled? 

But the details about you are only part of the story. Look around you. Where are you at this precise moment and what does that signify? Are there people or animals with you? What significant objects are near you?

By giving consideration – and space in your image – for details such as we’ve just mentioned, you can transform a fairly standard photo into one that tells an intriguing story.


Look for and capture emotion

Another key element of how to use your photos to tell a story is the way you bring emotion into your image. The whole idea of visual storytelling is to invoke an emotional response in the viewer and enable them to look in more depth at the image and put their interpretation on what is going on. 

One of the key ways to convey emotion is through body language. You can decide whether this is going to match the expression on a person’s face, or perhaps be at odds with it for a more intriguing shot. The combination of facial expression and body language is a powerful conveyor of emotion, and you may also decide to reinforce – or contradict – that with additional items in the photo as we explored above.

You can also convey emotion by capturing interaction between people in your image. Whether it’s a warm connection such as smiles, touch or hugs, or perhaps a more hostile confrontation, capturing human interactions in your photo can really stir the emotions.

But also remember that you can also convey emotion in an image without featuring a human subject. For example you may want to focus on a setting with an old tree, or beautiful water, or even something completely abstract. If you are a skilled storyteller you can also use these kinds of images to evoke strong emotions in your viewers.


Take as many shots as possible

When considering how to use your photos to tell a story, is it best to aim for one amazing shot, or use a series of images to tell your story? There is no right answer to this question, it’s completely up to you. A single image is more difficult because, however good it is, it’s inevitably only part of a bigger picture. However you may prefer to do this and leave more of the story to the viewer’s imagination.

The alternative is to put together a series of images. This enables your viewer to consider each image individually but also to understand the overall storyline portrayed between the different images. If you are using a series of images it’s also a good idea to use a variety of different kinds of shots as part of the sequence. For example, you could include close ups, wide-angle shots, still shots, action shots, and shots from both up high and down low. These different perspectives will combine together effectively to help tell the whole story.


We hope that our tips provide a useful introduction to how to use your photos to tell a story and that you enjoy getting some good results. 

Do check back here soon for more helpful photography guides from Print Your Memory.


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